Consumer Reports ranks airline award tickets in its June 2015 issue with Ultimate frequent-flyer guide Consumer Reports reveals what the airlines won’t tell you so you can get the flight you want.
This is mostly basic stuff for the type of people who follow miles and points blogs, yet there are still some interesting data points provided in the report.
Interesting that Consumer Reports values a good use of miles as any frequent flyer award ticket with a miles redemption value equal or better than 1.0 cent per mile. That is a value of $250 per 25,000 miles. Makes a 2% cash back credit card look good.
Easiest airline for award seats
1. Southwest Airlines
2. Delta Airlines
3. United Airlines
4. American Airlines
One of the primary limitations of this survey for frequent flyer awards is the study only looks at the top 25 routes on five airlines within the USA for economy class travel. There are no international routes considered and no premium class awards in this study. Still, 70 million frequent flyer awards were evaluated and analyzed for cents per mile redemption value based on average fare cost for the USA route.
Southwest Airlines offered the highest percentage of award tickets with 11.5% of seats flown on award points. Southwest had the highest award availability for hundreds of routes, not just the top 25.
JetBlue airlines offered the fewest award seats among the five airlines with only 4.5% of seats flown on award tickets.
Los Angeles – New York Award Tickets
1. Southwest 23% seats flown on award tickets.
2. American 21%
3. Delta 14.5%
4. United 12%
On average the legacy carriers of American, Delta and United fly almost 10% award seat passengers on the top 25 routes. There were 26.9 million one way award flights booked in 2014, almost 3 million more than in 2013. United Airlines is the only one of the five airlines surveyed that decreased award tickets in 2014 compared to 2013 (253,000 fewer awards).
United Airlines was also found to be the airline with the most add-on fees related to frequent flyer awards.
Frequent Flyer Award Availability
One of the other useful pieces of data is the availability of frequent flyer awards when booking 3 to 7 months in advance for the top 25 routes.
1. Southwest 100% availability.
2. Jet Blue 92.9%
3. United 71.4%
4. American 55%
5. Delta 55%
At 15 days advance booking, United increased to 80% availability while the other four airlines declined in award availability.
Wanna Getaway last minute? United Mileage Plus miles might be your best bet.